Back In The Air Again, Six Days Later

“He knows not his own strength that hath not met adversity.” – Ben Jonson (1640)

I’m on a plane flying from Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore. In about an hour, we will be flying over Washington D.C. To the left of me is a dark-skinned man, about 25, in a pilot’s uniform, reading today’s edition of USA Today. He was sitting by the gate when I got there this morning, two full hours before departure. I had an immediate and negative reaction to him. The thought crossed my mind that I shouldn’t get on the flight. I banished it, boarded, and chose a seat directly across from him, where I could watch what he did.

A bit of psychological fallout from a day of terrorism.

Nothing will be quite the same, yet some things are disconcertingly similar.

The Fort Lauderdale Airport is one example. Arriving there early this morning, I saw no guards, no extra police, no dogs sniffing luggage. The security people were the same as before — sluggish, indifferent people, barely paying attention to what they were doing. Contrary to what I had read, I was not asked for proof of a ticket at security nor were there any additional precautionary measures taken at the gate. They didn’t ask for any extra I.D. Only two questions were asked — the usual ones, in the usual manner. Same-old, same-old.

Meanwhile, my fellow passenger in the pilot suit continues to read his USA Today. It’s been three hours now and he’s still staring at that newspaper. Dyslexic? Hmm. His foot is bobbing, but why? Nervous? Anxious? Bored? In front of him, tucked under the seats, are two carry-on crew bags. I wonder why he needs two of them.

Here’s the dilemma: Do I dismiss this fearful fantasy and get to work — or give in to it and sit at attention, ready to pounce?

We are all facing this question, to whatever degree, and it begs for an answer.

Here’s a formula that usually works for me:

1. Identify your fears. Figure out what feelings and/or thoughts are distracting you. If you are afraid, ask yourself, “Of what, exactly?”

2. Make peace with it. Rather than convince yourself that your fears are unfounded, come up with a plan to survive them if worse comes to worst. Make specific plans for coping. Imagine yourself doing so. The better you can imagine yourself surviving a crisis, the more likely you will. And the better you’ll feel — now and later.

3. With a disaster plan set and the emotional base to support it, run the numbers. What, realistically, are the chances that your fears will come true? Probably not that great. Possibly remote. That should give you additional peace of mind and a more realistic perspective.

4. Get out the your goal and priority sheets and create a task list that makes sense to you.

5. Pick one important item on the list and get to work on it.

If you get this message, it means the worst didn’t happen on my flight to Baltimore. ETR will continue and I will have managed to start the day off productively. Hope you can too.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]